SNAKES are beginning to move around more as the weather continues to warm up.
Residents may start to see more of the ectothermic animals as they come out of their hibernation-like states in order to mate and feed, but a Ballarat snake catcher has urged people to remember that snakes are, in fact, afraid of people and will not attack unless provoked.
As they are cold-blooded creatures, snakes rely on their environment for thermoregulation. As such, they enter a state of brumation - comparable to hibernation in other species - when the weather starts to cool.
Without the warmth from the sun, a snake enters a state of brumation as it cannot retain enough heat to maintain its metabolism, including to digest any food.
When in this state its body slows down, it stops eating and becomes lethargic, taking up residence under a log or in another quiet place like a pile of bricks, for the duration of the cooler months.
When the days and nights begin to warm up, generally mid-spring, snakes begin to move around again.
It is around this time snakes begin to have chance encounters with humans, when they are slithering around people's properties looking for food such as frogs and skinks, and for a mate.
Ballarat Snake Catcher Jesse Farquhar said snakes were completely "misunderstood animals" that many people were frightened of but in reality, snakes are afraid of humans too.
Mr Farquhar and his twin brother Jules have been catching snakes in the Ballarat region for a number of years and have already started to receive calls from people wanting the creatures removed from their properties.
On Sunday, he responded to a call-out in Creswick, to a house by the river, where a tiger snake had been spotted.
Meanwhile, also on Sunday, paramedics were called to reports of a person being bitten by a snake in Clunes.
Paramedics treated a man in his 60s for lower body injuries just before midday, transporting him to St John of God Ballarat Hospital in a stable condition.
As snakes are such fearful creatures, they will quickly slither away if they feel the vibrations of human activity, like footsteps.
If a snake is encountered, Mr Farquhar said the best method of action was to slowly walk backwards, in the opposite direction, to keep an eye on its whereabouts and to call a snake catcher.
Although most of the snakes living in the Ballarat region are venomous - most commonly lowlands copperheads but also tiger snakes, red bellies and more rarely the brown snake - Mr Farquhar said a snake would not attack unless threatened or provoked.
He said there were two important reasons not to kill a snake.
"First of all, they are a protected animal that plays an important part in our ecosystem. Snakes have been here for much longer than us and play a vital role in ecology," he said.
"Secondly, to protect yourself from harm. Most snake bites occur when a person attempts to catch or kill a snake."
The best way to ensure snakes don't make a home on your property is to ensure the yard is tidy, with no wood or other rubbish piled up around the house and the grass is kept low.
Tanji Batliwalla, veterinarian at Eastwood Veterinary Clinic, said around this time of year, pet owners should keep an eye out for the signs of a snake bite in their cats or dogs.
Dr Batliwalla said the clinic saw a lot of cases of snake bites in cats and dogs during warmer weather and encouraged any owners who suspected a snake bite to seek immediate treatment for their animals as it would need to be treated with anti venom to ensure a full recovery.
She said most snakes would not attack unless threatened, which often happens in the cases with cats and dogs who may accidentally step on a snake and then be aggressive towards them.
Signs of a snake bite may appear a couple of hours after the bite occurred.
Signs to look out for include weakness, collapse, muscle twitching, difficulty breathing, paralysis, bloody urine, vomiting and dilated pupils.
She encouraged dog owners to keep their pets on a lead and stick to wider bush tracks during the warmer months to avoid stumbling upon a snake. She also said it was important to ensure all long grass is cut down around homes.
Dr Batliwalla said animals were usually brought in after roaming farm or bushland but bites could also occur in suburban backyards.
Ballarat Snake Catcher: 0408 308 680
Have you signed up to The Courier's variety of news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in Ballarat.